In today’s culture, planning and thinking ahead seems to be a second thought. With constant busy schedules, our actions are often reactionary instead of proactive. For us, setting aside time to do some basic planning on the front end has yielded us major time savings and overall less stress on the back end. Here are a few areas of our lives that we are intentional about planning.
Meal planning Before we grocery shop each week, we actually plan out dinner meals. We spend time thinking about what dinners will best match with our particular week’s schedule. Do we need to have leftovers ready to go on a certain night because we know we have something right after work? Do we have a dinner planned with friends where we won’t need to cook? Do we have extra time on a particular evening and want to try a new recipe? The ingredients needed for these meals, along with our breakfasts, lunches and snacks make our grocery list to ensure that we have what we need. It’s a little hard at first to get into the routine of this but once you get going, it makes life easier. You never drive home wondering – What am I going to eat for dinner? This eliminates unplanned eating out costs and/or eating junk for dinner.
Activities for the week Spend a few minutes over the weekend thinking about what your upcoming week looks like in terms of work, activities and workouts. This is especially helpful if you are married and/or have kiddos to ensure that everyone is where they are supposed to be and has transportation to get there. Brad and I actually share one car so this is essential for us. When our kids lived at home, it was important for our family to be on the same page. We even had a dry erase board on the refrigerator that listed the dinners and activities for the week so everyone knew what they were eating at night and what was going on in the evenings.
Budget Brad and I sit down each month before the month begins and write down our budget. We put down on paper what money we are going to save, give and spend (the only three things you can do with money) and then follow that plan, making adjustments throughout the month if needed. We’ll write a more in-depth blog post about this later one but we have found Dave Ramsey’s Zero-Based Budget to be very useful. You will become so much more efficient with your money if you are telling it where to go each month instead of wondering where it went.
Yearly planning Brad and I like to set aside time each December to look ahead for the following year and plan big events and goals that we want to accomplish. We love to travel and like to think about where we want to travel to and start making plans in terms of time off and saving money for the trip. We also really enjoy racing in running events and triathlons. We take a look at the calendar and pencil in races we want to do and make sure it makes sense with our travel plans and work obligations as well as we start saving money for these races, especially if we travel to them. We also take a big picture look at our budget and finances. If there are expenses we have coming up in the year (trips, races, even things like Christmas and personal property taxes), we make sure that we are setting aside money each month in our budget into a savings account to later pay for those expenses. We’ve had fun and done this planning meeting as a mini-trip, away from home. However, today we did a Team Earnest Planning Summit Staycation (we like to make up names for things like this). We got all of our chores and obligations done the day before and spent all day in our PJs, as it rained outside and was intentional as we thought about and dreamed about what 2016 looks like for us.
While we will be the first to admit we can be planning nerds, it has helped us greatly in our lives to become more efficient and intentional about achieving goals and decreasing stress. No matter what your personality-type is, by planning and thinking about your future, it can make life more peaceful.